Rambhai Makwana (name changed) was under treatment for piles for sometime before a test finally revealed that he was suffering from stage-II cancer of the rectum. Makwana was one of the lucky few whose cancer was detected at a relatively early stage and, hence, he could be saved.
Doctors in the city say that most rectal cancer patients don’t even realise they are suffering from cancer and instead continue to get themselves treated for piles and fissure.
Rectal cancer is among the five most common malignancies found in Gujarat as well as in the country as a whole. Doctors are not sure exactly why rectal cancer is on the rise but they say that this could be because of better detection of the disease.
“Thanks to advancement in diagnosis and screening, more cases are being detected. Many so-called cases of piles and fissures are now turning out to be rectum cancer. And this has been made possible because of the better facilities for detection,” said Dr Bhavin Shah, an oncologist.
According to Dr Shah, the exact cause of rectal cancer is not known. “Colon cancer, chronic inflammation, and bowel diseases that have lasted many years are some of the common precipitating conditions,” said Dr Shah.
Dr RK Vyas, deputy director of Gujarat Cancer and Research Institute (GCRI), said that earlier, instances of rectal cancer were rare as compared to other cancers such as those of the head and neck.
“Why should it be so, we don’t know. The rise in cancer cases could be because of better diagnosis but that alone cannot explain the trend,” said Dr Vyas, who is also professor of radiotherapy. “Five years ago we saw hardly five cases in a year, while now we get at least three a month,” said Dr Vyas.
Dr SS Alurkar, medical oncologist, however believes that the incidence of cancer of the rectum has remained static. “It can be seen across age groups starting as low as 25 years and it usually gets detected only in the third or fourth stage,” said Dr Alurkar.
He said that smoking is also one of the factors contributing to the growth in rectal cancer cases. Dr Alurkar, however, added that the earlier stages of the cancer are also being detected as people rush to a doctor when they detect blood in their stool. According to him, this type of cancer can only be detected earlier if a person goes for colon screening. (Name changed to protect identity.)